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50th Multirole Bridge Company returns Christmas Eve from Iraq deployment
50th Multirole Bridge Company returns Christmas Eve from Iraq deployment

Otisha Desir, wife of Pfc. Mackendy Desir, speaks to her husband by cell phone on his way back from a yearlong deployment to Iraq.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Dec. 24, 2009) — Many family members have already gathered at Nutter Field House awaiting the Christmas Eve return of more that 150 soldiers from the 50th Multirole Bridge Company, which deployed to Iraq last December.

The unit’s military mission was “full spectrum bridging operations in support of the 555th Engineer Brigade and Central Command Forces,” according to Fort Leonard Wood spokesmen. The company is part of the 5th Engineer Battalion, most of which returned from a 15-month Iraq deployment earlier this summer.

Military personnel do not routinely announce the precise arrival time of returning units for security reasons and because travel plans can change rapidly due to weather and air traffic conditions, but Fort Leonard Wood spokesman Jeff Maddy said the unit arrived earlier today in the United States and will be home on Christmas Eve.

The was the first deployment for Pfc. Mackendy Desir, whose wife Otisha Desir is waiting for him at Nutter Field House. The couple married just three months before he deployed to Iraq.

“It is not easy; it has been kind of hard but with the internet being we can talk on Skype that kind of helped a little bit, because we can see him and talk to him at the same time,” she said. “But I thank God he’ll be home for Christmas.”

While waiting in the United States for her husband to return, Desir said the unit’s family readiness group has been especially helpful by providing not only fellowship but also retreats and practical help to families with problems.

“I liked the classes; it was counseling, and I could really use that,” she said. “It’s going to be hard but you’ve got to put God first … keep your head up and stay strong because before you know it, it will be over. It’s been a quick year.”

The Desir family attend Christian Tabernacle Church in St. Robert, which has also been helpful through care packages, prayer circles, and other support for local soldiers.

“We’ve sent him several packages over there, things that he needs like clippers and stuff like that. I’ve sent him really big cards, like Valentine’s Day cards to let him know I was thinking of him, and sheets and towels because he’s very, very clean and I know he won’t want to lay on the same sheets over and over,” she said.

Desir said her husband lived in Columbus, Ohio, and joined the military to improve his employment options, which has become an increasingly common reason for enlistment with the current economic downturn.

“He was really getting tired of not being able to find a decent job,” she said.

So why did she choose to marry a soldier knowing he’d soon be on his way to Iraq?

“I met him at church. He was already in the service when I met him and it was love at first sight,” she said. “I believe that he is the person that God gave me.”

Family readiness groups work for new soldiers in part because of women like Mary Magnia, the wife of Staff Sgt. Jess Magnia, who in addition to being the wife of a NCO was also deployed as a prior service soldier.

“I was deployed before, and now I am seeing the other side and I don’t know how he did it,” Magnia said. “I think the most difficult thing for me was with my kids wondering where daddy is, trying to calm them down and let them know, ‘Daddy is okay,’ let them know he is coming home.”

The family readiness group members organized things for children to do every month, she said, as well as helping the spouses and sending packages to Iraq to support the soldiers. As a prior service soldier, Magnia said she and several other wives who served in the military tried to help wives who were not familiar with military stresses.

“They didn’t know a lot of things of what to expect,” she said.

Constant communication with spouses via the internet is helpful but can cause concerns when the communication stops,

“I think the most difficult would be when they were out of missions and I couldn’t talk to my husband for period of time and not knowing,” Magnia said. “When I couldn’t hear from my husband for a week or a week and a half at a time, that was the hardest.”

When the communication worked, however, she said it was a lifeline helping her children remain connected to their father.

“I could tell him what the kids did today at school … but sometimes we were onljne chatting and the internet would go down or the web camera went down. That happened a lot and that was a challenge,” Magnia said.

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